Campaigners have called on the next government to do more to phase out diesel vehicles after more than 150 children in Croydon were admitted to hospital with breathing difficulties last year.

A Freedom of Information request sent to the Croydon Health Services NHS Trust revealed that in 2023, 160 children under five were treated at Croydon University Hospital for respiratory problems.

Overall, more than 15,000 children across 22 London hospitals were admitted with serious breathing difficulties last year.

These figures were obtained by air pollution campaigners, Mums for Lungs, who have urged faster action to remove diesel vehicles by at least 2030, with some limited exceptions.

Children from Oasis Academy Ryelands' Eco Council have also joined the cause, drawing attention by hanging baby grows spelling out ‘Clean Air Now’ near areas with high levels of pollution.

Across England, 15,328 children under 19 were admitted to hospital for severe asthma attacks in 2022/23, according to figures from Public Health England.

In London alone, 2,705 children were admitted to hospital for the same reason.

Karina Fernandez, a Croydon resident and parent, said: "For far too long already the air in London and beyond has been so polluted it is making children sick.

"My son and I both have asthma and it is harrowing.

"No parent should sit in A&E watching anxiously over their child's breath.

"We need less cars and wood burning now."

Croydon's air pollution monitors consistently show dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM 2.5).

Exposure to such substances can result in serious health issues, especially in vulnerable groups including the young and elderly.

The Croydon-Norbury monitor measures NO2 levels nearly triple the World Health Organization guidelines.

Dr Anna Moore, a respiratory doctor who works at a London-based NHS Hospital, said: "All the evidence shows that there is a clear connection between high levels of air pollution and respiratory conditions.

"These figures also demonstrate that there are hundreds of children who are in hospital with conditions that could be prevented.

"At a time when NHS resources are stretched thin, we need to urgently clean up our air, including completely phasing out the most heavily polluting diesel cars, trucks, and vans."

Jemima Hartshorn from Mums for Lungs said: "Thousands of children are unable to breathe because of preventable air pollution, this must change.

"The next national Government, Mayors, and local authorities must all use their powers to phase out diesel vehicles and protect children from painful and debilitating health conditions."

Road transport is a major factor in London's air pollution problem, which reportedly contributes to around 4,000 yearly premature deaths in the capital.

Mums for Lungs is calling on the main political party leaders Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer to discourage people from buying diesel vehicles and to set a target for a diesel-free England by 2030.

Croydon Council was contacted for comment.